Remember the language exchange platform? Yes, the one I joined to speak better french? Well, needless to say, speaking better french didn't happen. I still had a long way to go, so I was back to conversations on the app.
In April of 2018, Ayoub and I began exchanging language lessons. His french was rusty, his spanish was excellent and his english consisted of Eminem lyrics. His native tongue was Darija, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, and I wasn't quite ready to learn Arabic.
Over time our conversations turned from frequent to daily. We considered each other as friends and I always looked forward to talking to him. Then Ayoub dropped the bombshell that he was interested in me. Huh? I pretended like I didn't understand his english, but I was hearing him loud and clear. So being honest, I told him I wasn't interested in a boyfriend, foreign or domestic. He only replied, "I can wait." For weeks I tried to convince him of the many reasons a relationship with me was a bad idea. He'd say, "You don't see what I see, but I'm a patient man. I can wait."
And wait he did. It was nearly a year when it struck me that I had feelings for him too. Feelings I tried my hardest to deny. He had shown consistency, honesty and loyalty. Traits that money couldn't buy and I knew were very rare in these modern times. But for me, it would be the time we spend together that would show me the true character of this man. So, off I went to Morocco.
Ayoub met me at the airport in Tangier and he was immediately relieved that I wasn't taller than him. We went from being images on a cellphone to sitting next to each other in front of the airport, talking, laughing and carrying on like old friends. We then set off on a 19-day adventure through some of the most iconic cities in Morocco: Tangier, Chefchauoen, Fes, Marrakech and then finally to Ayoub's hometown Rabat, the country's capital.
" . . . no one could deny that together we were pure magic."
Our journey was sometimes stressful and other times uncomfortable, but no one could deny that together we were pure magic. He is an expert storyteller and I immediately fell in love with the way he described his country, culture and family. He wanted me to know everything about him and the kind of man he is. I observed his interactions with strangers: taxi drivers, food vendors, and everyday people. Not only was he generous, he'd make people laugh and treated them like family. It was in those moments that he reminded me so much of my father and I couldn't help but get emotional over it.
During a beautiful afternoon in Rabat, Ayoub took me to the medina, the old city within ancient brick walls. We walked through the labyrinth of endless shops until we arrived at a jewelry store no bigger than my bathroom. My claustrophobia faded when the shop keeper brought out a thin gold band with a stone setting resembling a flower. I absolutely loved it. Ayoub asked me if it was a suitable engagement ring. "For me?" "Of course, for you," he replied. The look in his eyes told me everything I needed and wanted to know. Ayoub was more serious than I'd ever seen him. I only replied with the answer I prepared, in the event I was ever in this very situation, "Okay, let's get married."
The jeweler assured us that my engagement ring would be resized and ready to pick up within two hours. During the wait, Ayoub and I kept reminding each other that we were, in fact, going to get married. In retrospect, I think we did that out of complete shock. The reality hadn't set in, at least
not for me. We were in the middle of dinner when Ayoub received the call that my ring was ready. I was scared, excited and nervous all at the same time. Those feelings quickly changed to disappointment when Ayoub told me I had to wait until the weekend to wear my ring. "Why do I have to wait until Saturday?" He just smiled and said, "Just be patient. You'll see."